The Incident (Aug 2020-Mar 2021)

Collection of posts referencing The Incident.

Oh My Goodness

What in the world happened to me?  Wellll.  On Tuesday July 28, 2020 Windy, Cali, and I went out for ‘a three hour tour’.  But no! 

Our destination was a challenging hike to Sandstone Peak in the Santa Monica mountains above Malibu.  It was obvious within the first 15 minutes ‘we’ (meaning I) weren’t going to make it to the top so we decided to divert to a picnic area 2+ miles away.  What was I thinking?  That’s 5 miles round trip in the crippling heat on a rocky and only lightly groomed trail without even a stick of shade.  I said to myself, it’s ok, I’ll just turn around when I want.  But I got too far and couldn’t get back.

What comes next I have zero memory of happening and am using Windy’s and Cali’s recounting.  We had turned back but it was too late.  I went down, dead weight, unconscious.  I landed on scorching rocks and was there long enough to generate second and third degree burns covering my back and butt and some of my leg and arm.  While this was happening Windy had made it to the trailhead, fallen on some rocks and broken her hand.  So there was Cali with two broken-down old ladies.  She Picked Me Up.  Picked Me Up.  WHAT?  She picked me up and carried me, to stick my head under a bit of shade and left me on the ground to go for help.

At the trailhead the other hikers jumped in to assist, they revived Windy although I was still unconscious.  Someone supplied a shade cover and someone called 911.  A chopper team did an aerial rescue taking me, still unconscious, wrapped in ice blankets and ice packs, to Los Robles, the nearest hospital, with a triage diagnosis of Exertional Heat Stroke.  (“Exertional Heat Stroke is a medical emergency defined as life-threatening hyperthermia (core body temperature ≥ 105°F]) and central nervous system dysfunction. Exertional Heat Stroke is one of the top three causes of sudden death in athletes.”)

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I have survived thanks to Cali, kind strangers, the 911 helicopter team, and the ER at Los Robles.  I woke up in the ER still wrapped in ice blankets and groin and armpit ice packs and I could tell the gang there was both surprised and relieved and also maybe amused and pleased when I started complaining.  My first conscious words…I’m SO Cold…Why is it so wet in here…My back hurts.  Hey everybody, she’s not dead!

Now that the life-and-death crisis had passed, the question was what damage did all that time being unconscious and the Exertional Heat Stroke do to my vital organs.

They were especially concerned about my heart and scheduled a Coronary Angiography (another paper says Cardiac Catheterization) for Wednesday.  The procedure is meant to discover narrowed or blocked blood vessels.  When it was over the Cardiologist come out and announced “You have a beautiful heart”.  I loved that expression so much I’ve said it 100 times already.  I have beautiful heart!  So that means I’m going home, right?  Wrong. 

Another one of the battery of labs they do in the hospital revealed an elevation in creatine kinase, an indication of a possible Rhabdomyolysis condition.  (“Rhabdomyolysis may be caused by injury or any other condition that damages skeletal muscle. This muscle tissue breakdown results in the release of a protein (myoglobin) into the blood. Myoglobin can damage the kidneys.”)  So sorry, they said, you’ll have to stay Thursday night and see if this elevation goes down with another day on IV fluids.

The next day, now it’s Friday, tick tick, all is well, time to go home.  Yes, Thank You!  Lona, Trevor, and Beth picked me up and Trevor drove my car home.  They left me with food and good will and soon it will all be just a story.

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It seemed a good idea at the time!

What’s left for me to do:  exhaustive and exhausting wound care.  Those burns I got from the hot rocks are very large patches of 2nd degree and some bits of 3rd degree burns.  I’ve been getting wound care treatments twice a day at the hospital and now I have a home health care nurse who will come once a day to clean the wounds and change the dressings.  How civilized!  What’s not left for me, for a while anyway, is a covid test because they did one in the hospital: Negative!

What happened to Windy:  she and Cali drove my car from the trail head to the hospital and then Windy checked in to the hospital too!  She was in another wing but everyone around seemed to know they had the two sisters from the trail.  Her injury was not too severe and she went home Wednesday.  She’s bruised and battered from the fall and will see her own doctor for a referral for her hand.

What happened to Cali:  she’s fine although still a little sore from hauling that huge dead weight (that being me!) and what an incredible adrenaline rush to put on a 17 year old.  It’s her Hero Story for sure.

What happened to my stuff:  when I first became aware, I had no clothes.  The Chopper team had cut them all from my body!  My favorite pants!  My favorite shirt!  Oh well, when Jeff came to pick up Windy on Wednesday he brought me one of her outfits.  I had been having a few hours of massive stress about my bag – my phone, insurance, credit cards, driver’s license, SO much hassle.  But sweet Cali had gathered up everything and brought it to me on Wednesday along with the clothes.  Still missing, my glasses.  On Thursday afternoon a lovely woman was standing in my hospital room door with my glasses!  She was on the helicopter rescue team and had put them in her pocket and just forgot.  She went far out of her way to find me, glad I wasn’t dead, and glad for the amazing save she had made.

So that’s it for now.  I am not going to challenge the sun again.  You win sun.  I surrender!

On Every Hospital Wall

I’d say I’m about the same, very much looking forward to being better! My main condition is unrelenting discomfort, not being able to situate myself comfortably. At any given moment it’s not so bad but over time, man-oh-man it does get TEDIOUS. My face looks yellow.

Life in a Bear Cave

All day and all night long I’m just trying to get comfortable. Turning, twisting, building little barriers wedges and whatnot. There must be a better way and I’m going to have to learn about it! Drugs are nice but it’s not general anesthesia.

So so SO much thanks to everyone who has helped me. What a blessing. And then there’s this.

I Can’t Sit Down

I had my first appointment with the skin care specialist (a plastic surgeon recommended by my GP).

He says I have to have a debridement (removal of dead skin), the sooner the better, so I’m doing a pre-op tomorrow, Wednesday, including another covid test.  The surgery will be on the 18th at the Saint John’s Surgery Center and takes one hour, four hours total at the Surgery Center with early arrival and post-general-anesthesia wait time. 

Then 3-4 weeks later he wants to do skin grafts which is especially painful and takes especially long to heal.  He was really selling it(?) but his particular expertise is in plastic surgery.

I’ll go ahead and get the debridement done because the wound care nurse says it has to happen as does Windy and even the internet agrees, and then I’ll get a second opinion on the skin grafts just in case there are alternatives.

So I’ll probably keep getting a very little better until Tuesday the 18th when I’ll get worse again for a week, then some better for 3-4 weeks and then Really worse for a couple months after the skin graft. It’s OK though, I’m resigned, one day at a time and eventually it will all be over!

What’s Next

Yesterday I walked the few blocks back and forth to various medical appointments in preparation for the debridement (de-BREEd-ment), a same-day surgery under general anesthesia to remove the dead skin around the worst of the burns that I’ll be having on Tuesday. I needed all those pre-op tests and Another covid. All good, thumbs up, ready to roll.

It’s only Friday though, the surgery is on Tuesday, so I’m living in hope that I’ll feel better every day, a hope that has yet to be achieved. Don’t burn your butt…if you do you can’t sit down!

How Am I

Right this second at 9am on Thursday I’m standing at the kitchen counter writing this in relative comfort. Still, I can’t sit down.

The surgeon and the anesthetist said everything went great on Tuesday although both of them made me feel they were talking about themselves, you know the type. Not a whiff of warm and fuzzy between them. I slept well Tuesday night but I think the anesthesia was still in force.

Yesterday was on and off up and down on the comfort scale and getting the wounds redressed for the first time was a real Sting Fest that didn’t subside for many hours. But then I did mostly sleep at night so ok, I wonder what today will bring!

What a TREAT, I keep finding bunches of flowers on my front porch. Thank you my friends! I’m sorry if yours was an early arrival and already had its beautiful life.
And FOOD. So much scrumptious food has come my way I can’t thank you all enough. Family and friends are a treasure and a blessing, but you know that.

FOUR HOURS or 6 or 8 or 10

Since the debridement on Tuesday I’ve had the dressings changed four times, Wed-Thur-Fri-Sat, and each time no matter how I’ve mixed and matched the pain meds, for Four Hours I can hardly breathe. Huhhh So Bad. Wow, I can Not Wait for this to be over! I ask the nurse every day, will it be better tomorrow? And he replies, soon, I promise it will be better soon. Soon? When is SOON?! I’ll be clapping my hands and dancing a jig when I’m ok in two hours. I can hold my breath for two hours.

Still! These flowers are still dressing up my entry way from May 10. I know the plant is real because it arrived for Mother’s Day from Cynthia with many fewer blooms. Maybe someone sneaks into my house and changes it out?

And I might get a persimmon or two, it could happen!

A Second Opinion

I wonder if I’ve just experienced a joyous near-total turn-around?  The second opinion guy (Dr Ralph Massey recommended by Brigitte and Knut) had a different wound care routine entirely involving a different method to remove the old dressings, a different way to clean the wounds, and a different medication. 

Windy was over, the home care nurse was here, and the three of us meticulously followed the new routine.  Oh my GOODNESS the treatment Didn’t Sting!  How can it be?!  Last night I still hurt but not like before when every night I considered checking myself into the hospital, and this morning, same thing, it hurts but So Much Better I can NOT complain. It seems the hornets and the scorpions that have been plaguing me for weeks have Moved On!

On top of which the second opinion guy said ‘skin graft? No, you don’t need a skin graft.  You’re not going to be a butt model, right, so why have a surgery you don’t need.’  Don’t we love it when doctors tell us what we want to hear!

I went back to the first guy yesterday too, who did the debridement, and he said ‘you have two choices, do another debridement and then do a skin graft or do a skin graft now and it probably won’t all take so you’ll need another one’.  I say No Thank You to Both your stinking choices.

Another reason for thumbs down on the first guy, I’ve had two home care nurses since this started and it turns out both of them asked this first doctor, through their agency, if they could change the treatment plan and both times the doctor replied NO, just NO.

I’ve still got 2-3 months of this new treatment plan in my future. If all goes well I’ll be steadily day by day feeling less pain as the wounds grow skin. I don’t know when I’ll be able to sit down. To my little sister Windy The Nurse goes grateful PRAISE for all she has done to get me through this, through the hornets and the scorpions, through my moans and groans and tears. I’m better now!

I don’t know how to thank everyone who has helped me, I’m mute with gratitude. I don’t know if I’ll live long enough to extend to others all the help and love and companionship that has been extended to me.

Last Night I Slept

That’s a view from my BED, a little green from the foliage outside the windows, and as the kids say and I just noticed, rando, rando except they are a few things I like.

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Pain is coming…gabapentin says NO.

gif-gabapentin

Stuck Here

I’m stuck here, not entirely though. I can ride for 10-15 minutes, perched on my good side, in someone else’s car. Windy took me to the Garden Center to get the Dwarf Meyer Lemon Tree that is going in one of the spots where two of the dead lavender used to live and Lona picked me up for us to do some shopping for Windy’s birthday party (no guests, just us) on Thursday.

I’m starting to feel a little guilty about everyone going out of their way for me. As of a couple of days ago I really am well enough to walk to the store. Still, it’s so nice when people bring me things! When Marsha was working we used to have Dim Sum downtown so she brought us a fine Dim Sum lunch. That was nice. In the last few days I’ve had salads from Jo Ann, farmer’s market treats from Muriel. It’s so nice.

These sweet birds are happy there in my window for me to enjoy all day every day. They’re not going anywhere. Ahhh…but a trip…it’s in my very distant future.

Here’s a poem from the poem-a-day email. It’s not so much for me since I’m RETIRED but I remember!

“Vacation End” by Leslie Pinckney Hill (1880-1960)

From the charm of radiant faces,
From the days we took to dream,
From the joy of open spaces,
From the mountain and the stream,
Bronzed of sunlight, nerves a-tingle,
Keen of limb and clear of head,
Speed we back again to mingle
In the battle for our bread.
Now again the stern commanding
Of the chosen task is heard,
And the tyrant, care, is standing
Arbiter of deed and word.
But the radiance is not ended,
And the joy, whate’er the cost,
Which those fleeting days attended
Never can be wholly lost.
For we bring to waiting duty,
To the labor and the strife,
Something of the sense of beauty,
And a fairer view of life.

At Least I’m Over THAT

Twice this week I’ve walked to the Rite Aid thinking I’d then continue on to the bank. But no. I was ‘concerned’ that I wouldn’t make it back easily enough. It’s eight blocks. I was perfectly capable of walking to the bank but I was ‘concerned’. I think since ‘The Incident’ I’ve been overly anxious about turning around in time. Not a bad idea, to be careful, but really, eight blocks there and eight blocks back. I can…and I DID. That’s me in the little ATM mirror/camera.

And while I was there at the bank I figured I might as well cross the street to the Tehran Market and bring back some of my favorite things.

I might need to get me some of those red geraniums for my geranium pot. I was so tempted to dead-head this baby but fortunately there was a fence to keep me back.

Justin, Every Day

My home care nurse, that’s him in the hoodie, comes to treat my wounds every day. Every Day. When he’s not nursing, or hanging with the wife and two kids, or making improvements on his recently acquired home, he’s participating in endurance sports. He and his wife have each run 50+ marathons for example (or is it they’ve each run 25+? I forget. They are so young!). They are both in many running clubs, but, drum roll please, above is the group with whom Justin completed his first triathlon.

I think six of those above did the triathlon, three women and three men – swim! bike! run! The rest did bike or run or maybe both. A triathlon requires a fairly long-distance swim in the ocean, in open water. You’ve got to train especially for that!

Now Justin says he just wants to do more Triathlons, nothing but Triathlons (his wife is learning to swim and should be in the game very soon). I don’t know who took these pictures – Justin gave them too me and how cute is this I ask you?!

Swim! Bike! Run!

My Standup Desk

Because I STILL can’t sit down!

It was THREE months ago, July 28th, that ‘The Incident’ occurred. The Incident didn’t just ‘occur’ of course, I did it to myself, and there we are. If this is new to you, click on over to August 1 where the story begins.

I am feeling better every day. The wound on my calf no longer needs treating and my shoulder is coming along. Even the wound on my butt is getting smaller. Justin, my wound care nurse, thinks he’ll be done with me in six weeks. The Light!

Look At Me

That’s my knee, and I’m about 15 degrees from flat on my back. Oh BOY! I can, so soon, be comfy in the bed and still watch television! Is sitting far behind (ha that’s funny, far behind)? No! Notice your day. How often are you sitting? Often!

A Red-Letter Day

That’s the driveway and you’ll notice the car is gone. Why? Because I Drove The Car to the repair shop for service and a new battery. I drove the car for the first time in more than four months. WOW, I know! I could sit for the five minutes it took to drive there and later the five minutes it took to drive it back. The repair shop is five blocks away so no problem walking home to wait.

I’m so excited. I’m going to drive to the car wash tomorrow.

Now it’s tomorrow and I DID drive to the car wash. I feel so much safer having a car that will start, full of gas, and me being able to drive it. I’ve still got many weeks of wound care but what an improvement.

No Wonder

Maybe for the first time today, and I can’t believe it’s the first time, I googled wound care for burns. Goodness, the internet was interested in showing me so so so many pictures of disgusting wounds. My butt wound was right up there with the worst of them. I thought I had a little 3rd degree but yikes, most of it was 3rd degree.

It’s interesting how wounds heal, mostly from the inside up. The outside has a process too mostly involving goo.

I’ve had four layers of dressing – first the thing that soaks up the goo, then the thing that covers that and takes up the residual goo, then the pad that extends past the whole wound area, and then tape, lots and lots of tape.

Today the first bottom layer again got cut down significantly in size. Progress!

DISCHARGED

All my wounds have at least one layer of skin. I made SKIN! I still have to be careful not to scratch it open, and to keep it all moisturized, but no more wound care nurse for me. I’ll miss you Justin!

Eight months minus one day. I’m ok with that, and grateful as there will be no lingering after effects except, as my doctor noted previously, butt modeling is off the table.

You can click on this link for the story from the beginning in chronological order:

https://wheretheheckismom.com/daily-life-2021/the-incident-aug-2020-may-2021/

Oh No SETBACK

For a few days I’m going back to my 8 1/2 months ago regime, no sitting down. Ok Ok, I can do that, but it will be harder. At first I did not sit down from pain. Now I have to not sit down from force of will, will power never being a particular strong suit…

…too much fun probably caused a small ‘fissure’ to open again.  I promised my sister I’d stay put for 3-4 days and not sit down because on Monday I have two long commitments requiring a few hours of driving. Here’s hoping for the best. Standing around in my kitchen to eat or type, to do paperwork or work on my pictures, ETC. I’ve been standing for a few hours this morning already. It’ll be ok..ok ok.

(5/1/21 I’m better than before the setback so YAY for that!) 

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